Saturday, March 18, 2006

Heading south on St Patrick's Day

Our passenger spent most of its time preening, followed by squawking, before testing its wings and heading off west. It's 400 miles west to Nicaragua, but there's plenty of shipping around so perhaps it'll hitch a ride on a steadier platform.

Herb's routed us a long way north, feels like we're nearly half way to Jamaica. Ouf arrived this evening taking a more Southern route and "Tomatillo" should get in tomorrow mid-day - although they got a little wet when a wave broke over their stern. It's renowned as a dangerous passage so it's probably best to err on the side of caution, even if we end up adding a day and a half to the passage.

There's no time to get bored - what with daily attempts to fix the outboard and rigging the ratlines, then there's the SSB. We have the Caribbean net at 8am, followed by Panama "connection" net at 9.30. Then a brief rest before we chat to "Ouf" and "Tomatillo" at 11am. We check into Herb at 3.30-4pm, and he works his way round the boats on passage, giving us a call around 4.30pm. We speak to "Savoir Vivre" at 6pm, followed by Ouf and "Tomatillo" again at 6.30pm. In addition there are weather faxes to download and study, emails to write and respond to, leaving just enough time for sail adjustments, course tweaks, watching out for other shipping, cooking, turning eggs, eating, sleeping and routine checks for water in the bilge, condition of the batteries etc.

We're heading for a customs post on the Colombian/Panamanian border called Puerto Obaldia. Once we've legally entered Panama and have a cruising permit we'll start making our way up the San Blas islands to Panama. There are now a couple of other boats we know in Panama so depending upon the length of the wait for a canal transit we might leave San Blas after a week, visit Panama, complete the necessary paper work and head back to San Blas while we wait for our transit.

I'm on watch until midnight. The moon has yet to rise and even though the stars are spectacular, they don't give off much light; it's almost painful peering into the black void ahead of us trying to spot other ships. The wind increased and backed to the north as the light vanished and we found ourselves speeding along at 8-9knots with a double-reef main and small genoa towards Colombia. The main is now down and we're still making 6knots under a small head-sail, but at least now in the right general direction. We've 200 miles still to cover - the plan is to arrive for first light Sunday morning. We'll slow down as necessary so that we don't arrive in the middle of the night - Panama isn't renowned for the reliability or presence of navigation lights.

Happy St Patrick's day.

Position @ 20.00 17/3/06 - N12°08' W77°23'

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